Darwin’s Diaries – Death Of A Beast… but could there be more….?

Published On February 29, 2012 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Darwin’s Diaries Volume 2: Death Of A Beast

By Sylvain Runberg and Eduardo Ocana


“With the beast killed by the soldiers, the strike ends and things seem to return to normal. But there are still some unanswered questions and lingering tensions, especially towards the neo-druids who live in the forest. The death of a young girl triggers a wave of aggression and more deaths. Is anyone controlling the ancient evil in the forests? And why, exactly, is the principled, family-minded Charles Darwin drowning his nights in gin and loose women?”

Oh yes, why is Charles Darwin, mild mannered naturalist, having a wild time of it with the gin and the loose women? And what connection does it have with his lost research into “wild men”, those “clawed ones” so interesting to Prime Minister Palmerston?

Here’s a bit of what I said about Volume 1 of Darwin’s Diaries

“You want strange concept? Try this on for size – Charles Darwin gets roped in by the Prime Minister to investigate a particularly series of gruesome murders in Yorkshire that look like the work of some as yet unidentified predator. Yes, Charles Darwin. Yes, THE Charles Darwin. On The Origin of the Species Charles Darwin. A man not exactly known for being a great investigator of unsolved crimes.

But it gets weirder. No, really. This Charles Darwin turns out to be quite the man of action as well, and seemingly fond of the darker things in life; with gin, prostitutes and vicious street fighting all part of a night out. And all the while he’s investigating the Yorkshire beast. Which happens to be very, very real, very dangerous and most decidedly not something he’s seen on his travels. This is something new, something even the great scientist can’t explain. See. I told you it was a strange concept.”

And with Volume 2, the strangeness of the concept keeps on going, all the way through to a very interesting, if slightly telegraphed ending. We’re back in 1860, with a just getting famous Darwin carrying on his investigations into the Yorkshire murders, with a big case of suspension of disbelief needed here with Runberg really playing the weirdness of this Darwin for all he can.

But that’s okay, I can suspend with the best of them, and there is something ridiculously enjoyable about seeing action Darwin going rather batshit crazy, more weird animal related deaths, strange druidic goings-on, and like Darwin said right at the end of the first volume….. is the beast they killed the only one of this potential new species to roam the wilds of Yorkshire?

(Therianthrope you say….. “the metamorphosis of humans into other animals”. Now can you see where this is going?)

Yes, it’s still quite obviously bonkers. But it’s still quite brilliantly, over the top and knows it bonkers. Runberg writes like crazy, making it all seem at least slightly believable, keeping it all going, throwing us right in there. It works, just about, although once it becomes obvious where he’s going with it, and that’s about halfway through, you do begin to wonder how long he can keep it entertaining once he gets into the next volume. But for this one, I’m enjoying every stupid thing he can throw my way.

Likewise the art by Ocana is effective stuff, with a particular knack of delivering tension where it needs, whether it’s the talking heads or the action sequences, and he’s very good at delivering a creeping sense of danger, just like this:

So that’s Volume 2. I’m looking forward to seeing where they take it all next, although we may have a bit of a wait, as this was out from Lombard in 2011, and there’s no word on the French publication date of Volume 3 yet. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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